Thursday, June 9, 2016

Reflecting on the ocean of truth found in the incarnation of the Son of God

John 1:1-3 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."

Introduction: An Ocean of Truth about Jesus Christ
I'll never forget the first time I saw the ocean. I thought I knew things about the ocean. All through grade school, high school and college years I had taken classes that told me various facts about life here on this earth and the ocean. Whenever a documentary would come on television about anything to do with science or about deep sea exploration - I would watch with rapt attention. I've had friends throughout the years who specialized in various fields of life-science who could tell me specific details about the ocean. As wonderful as all that was - when I saw the ocean for the first time - I suddenly realized that all of the aforementioned learning and conversation told me things about the ocean - but to experience it for myself resulted in my realizing how much more there was to know. 

When we look at John's opening introduction in his Gospel - John 1:1-18, we are confronted with much the same type of experience at a more profound level. This introduction to John's Gospel - called by Bible teachers "The Prologue" - confronts us with the truth of the Person of Jesus Christ. Whatever you and I may think we know about Jesus is shown to be pale and small in comparison to the profundity of these 18 verses. 

As I have been meditating on John 1:1-18, I've come to realize that in so far as I have been knowing Jesus Christ and following Him in faith for some thirty years - there is so much more I need to and want to know about Him. John the Apostle presents to us an ocean of truth about Jesus Christ that is crammed into the cup-sized portion of John 1:1-18. 

John's prologue brings to us truth about the distinctions we can make between the titles: "God the Son" and "Son of God". Both titles refer to the same Person - Jesus Christ, but explain two amazing truths that present a complete picture about His amazing Divine identity. Additionally, John's prologue aims to reveal how God the Son as Son of God came to incarnate Himself in the true humanity of Jesus of Nazareth. My aim today is to reflect on what these truths entail and to provide for the reader two life-practical applications of these profound but necessary truths. 

The title "Son of God" is theological shorthand for defining who Jesus is in relationship to the Trinity
As we begin to consider this prologue, we are introduced to the Son of God in Eternity. The whole purpose of John's Gospel is summarized near the end of his book in John 20:31 "but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." Jesus Christ as the "Son of God" speaks of His relationship to the Heavenly Father as they both share in the same, undivided, Divine nature within the Trinity. Included in such sharing is a third Person - the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14). 

As "Son of God", Jesus Christ shares the same qualities of being with the Father and the Spirit. Such qualities include omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, eternality and all the attendant attributes that makes Him truly God along with the Father and the Spirit. 

What John is doing is introducing us to the Son as He was before His incarnation (that is - prior to His coming to assume humanity in the identity of "Jesus of Nazareth). He is the Person of the Son who is in relationship with the Person of the Father, who is God. When we come to John 1:1-3, we see the Son of God described by the title "Word". 

As the "Word", the focus of John's opening verses is to make known to us how Jesus as "The Son of God" functions within the Godhead to express in an intelligible way the glory of the Father. Other biblical passages such as Hebrews 1:1-3 describe this activity. John 1:18b captures this profound truth with amazing brevity: "the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." This is what is meant by the title "Son of Son". 

The title "God the Son" is theological shorthand for describing what kind of Person Jesus Christ is
We have considered the meaning of the title "Son of God" as referring to Jesus' relationship, function and Divine identity within the Trinity. However, there is a second similar sounding title that Bible teachers have come to use: "God the Son". This title "God the Son" highlights the truth of what kind of Person the Son is in-an-of-Himself. This title is theological shorthand for describing how Jesus Christ, "The Word", is God revealed, expressed and truly lived out by the Person of the Son. 

Perhaps expressed another way - the title "God the Son" serves to express the "Godness" or "Deity" of the Son as He has existed from all eternity. Thus, when Jesus explains Himself in John 8:58 by the phrase: "before Abraham was, I am", He is expressing how He is truly Divine. 

How "God the Son" as "Son of God" ever remained such when He became the incarnate Jesus of Nazareth 
The Apostle Paul in Colossians 2:9 states - "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." The truth of the Son being "God the Son" never changed nor diminished once He took unto Himself a human nature. In like-manner, He being the "Son of God" in perpetual relationship with the Father and Spirit never altered when He assumed unto Himself humanity. The term "nature" can be defined as the way-in-which a living being expresses its life and existence. When God the Son, eternally existing in relationship with the Father and Spirit as the Son of God - came to be "enfleshed" and revealed as Jesus of Nazareth, He now would express Himself in two ways - as truly God and truly man. 

A helpful illustration of this point is seen in how a piece of metal heated by a torch begins to glow. The flame prior to its contact with the metal is a flame. Once both are brought together, the flame's heat makes the metal glow. Together, the metal expresses the flame's light and heat while still remaining metal. In like manner, the flame is still a flame in its light and heat while expressing itself through the metal. 

We find these words in the midst of John's prologue, John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." Unless the Son has willingly incarnated Himself in human flesh, there would had been no salvation nor capability of Personally knowing nor interacting with Him.

Practical Applications concerning God the Son as Son of God incarnating Himself as the man Jesus for you
My prayer is that this meditation on John's Prologue has evoked wonder in the reader about Jesus Christ. Just as experiencing the ocean for the first time made me realize how much more there is to know about the ocean - so too diving into a text like John 1:1-18 ought to drive us to know Jesus even better. With that said, what ought we to take away from these reflections on the titles "God the Son", "Son of God" as it relates to the incarnation of Jesus on our behalf?

a. Joyful Worship. 
Truly we ought to be blown away and on our knees and faces before Jesus Christ. A recent theological statement on the Person of Christ by Ligonier Ministries called "The Word made flesh" describes this attitude of worship: "We confess the mystery and wonder
of God made flesh and rejoice in our great salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. With the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Son created all things, sustains all things, and makes all things new. Truly God, He became truly man, two natures in one person."
The link for the full Ligonier statement can be found at:

b. Joyful fellowship
My first-time experience of the ocean caused me to be overwhelmed by its immensity and ground-shaking waves. However I also found myself walking along the shoreline and into the the ocean itself to enjoy the sprays of water issuing forth from the waves. Recognizing Jesus Christ as "God the Son" who is "the Son of God" revealed in true humanity means I can fellowship and walk with Him. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 summarizes it this way in its final statement about "God the Son": "He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord."

Worship and fellowship go hand-in-hand. We ought not to grow too familiar with Jesus nor too remote from Him. In His incarnation, God the Son who is the Son of God is both worthy of our worship and willing to be in fellowship. Such truths ought to drive us to know Him more and and make Him known. 

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